Hemorrhaging Faith

A major research project has just been released that takes an in depth look at why Canadian young people are leaving the church. “Only one in three Canadian young adults who attended church weekly as a child still do so today,” says James Penner, lead author of Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church. “What is more,” continues Penner, “our data indicates that only half of young adults continue to identify with the Christian tradition they were raised in.”

John Wilkinson, chair of the EFC Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable, says “For those of us who are close to what is going on in youth ministry across Canada, the research findings are not so much surprising as they are confirming that many who have grown up in church are no longer engaged by the time they reach their adult years.”

“In the interviews we did with 72 young people, we heard stories from young adults hungry for an experience of God,” says Penner, “but who were frustrated and even wounded by what they found at church. We have to hear their voices and what they’re saying.”

“We also found,” continues Rick Hiemstra, another of the report’s authors, “that there are four spiritual types of young adults with very distinct experiences of church. The experience of one of these types, whom we call Engagers, provides key insights into strategies that any church can use to help young adults stay in the church and thrive.”

The report explores, among other things, family of origin, immigration status, rites of passage and practices of spiritual disciplines.
Other issues are addressed, such as the importance of providing young people with meaningful ways to participate and lead in the life of the church, and also the tendency of youth and young adults to leave at pivotal turning points in their lives, e.g., the transition from elementary to high school, family breakdown and the loss of key mentors.

The Hemorrhaging Faith research project is the cover story for the September/October issue of Faith Today. James Penner and other project participants will be appearing on 100 Huntley Street (CTS) on September 12, 9:00 AM. The report can be accessed here: http://www.hemorrhagingfaith.com/.

“Hemorrhaging Faith” is a major study commissioned by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable and funded by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, The Great Commission Foundation, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada, Stronger Together 2011 and Youth for Christ Canada.

The study relies in part on findings from a survey conducted by Angus Reid Forum, which heard from 2,049 Canadian young adults (18-34) who had indicated that they were raised in the church – either in the Roman Catholic, mainline or evangelical traditions – about their spiritual lives as children, teens and young adults in the summer of 2011.

If you are interested in hearing more about this report and how it impacts our churches here in Atlantic Canada, James Penner along with Rachael Harder will be in our region later this month as speakers for our Fall Training Tour:

  • September 24th, 7pm – Crandall University, Moncton, NB
  • September 25th, 7pm – Bedford Baptist Church, Bedford, NS

Whether you are a pastor, teacher, church leader, or simply passionate about reaching the Next generation for Christ, everyone is welcome to come. Please contact Jacqueline Derrah to register!